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Tunisia court convicts five for alleged coup plot

A court in Tunisia [US State Department backgrounder] on Wednesday convicted five men, including two government officials, of involvement in a terror plot against the Tunisian government [official website, in French]. National security force officer Souhail Guezdah was sentenced to to nine years in prison, while deputy prison head Sami Belhaj Aissa received a four-year sentence. Three others received sentences ranging between four and nine years. The proceedings echoed the internationally-publicized 1987 trial [New York Times report] of dozens of Muslim fundamentalists accused of attempting to overthrow the Tunisian government using terrorist tactics. A defense lawyer promised to appeal the convictions, noting that about 1,000 people have been charged or sentenced under a 2003 anti-terror law [Amnesty backgrounder]. AP has more.

Last month, Amnesty International [advocacy website] released a report [text; press release] accusing Tunisia of committing wide-spread human rights abuses under overly-broad anti-terrorism legislation. Amnesty also criticized the US, as well as European and other Arab countries, for turning over terror suspects to Tunisian authorities [JURIST report] despite allegations of torture and other abuses. In February, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the deportation [text] of a former Tunisian terrorism suspect, finding he would likely be subjected to torture [JURIST report] in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF text] if returned to Tunisia. In September 2007, Human Rights Watch released a report [text; press release] accusing Tunisian officials of mistreating two former Guantanamo detainees [JURIST report] after they were returned to the country.

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